HONG KONG, June 16 -- Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has called on residents not to be used as pawns by foreign forces amid the US-China trade war, and said more than 60 statements issued by overseas powers had fuelled tension over the controversial extradition bill.
More than 200 Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) met officials from the liaison office on Sunday, when they were also asked to support the Hong Kong government in riding out the storm. The meeting was held hours before people took to the streets for a second consecutive Sunday, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announcing the suspension of the legislation the day before. The bill, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China. “The liaison office officials recognised the Hong Kong government’s intention to pass the extradition bill to plug legal loopholes. But it’s a shame that … many foreign forces keep interfering and smearing the bill,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s only representative to the NPC’s Standing Committee. He and the other delegates met Wang Zhimin, director of the liaison office, and other duty chiefs for about an hour.
KARUIZAWA, June 16 -- The Group of 20 major economies agreed Sunday on the creation of an international framework that calls on members to take voluntary steps to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, one of the world's most pressing environmental threats.
The agreement came after a two-day meeting of G-20 environment and energy ministers at which discussions also focused on energy security after attacks on two oil tankers in the Middle East that sparked a surge in oil prices. "Marine litter, especially marine plastic litter and microplastics, is a matter requiring urgent action given its adverse impacts on marine ecosystems, livelihoods, and industries including fisheries, tourism, and shipping, and potentially on human health," said a communique issued following the meeting in the central Japan resort town of Karuizawa. Japanese Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada, who co-chaired the meeting, called the agreement a "major achievement" in the lead-up to a G-20 leaders' summit later this month. "We will continue to vigorously seek solutions to such global issues," he told a press conference. The ministers stressed the importance of realizing a "virtuous cycle" of environmental protection and economic growth, driven by "breakthrough innovation" in the private sector with support from governments.
But the participants were not on the same page on all of the environmental issues, with the United States, which has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, refusing to endorse a commitment in the communique to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The document ended up suggesting that countries, excluding the United States, reaffirm their promises to fully implement the accord that aims to keep the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2 C compared with preindustrial levels to mitigate the impact of climate change, such as droughts, floods and rising sea levels. "There are countries that would like to go make some statements on the Paris climate accord in these documents here this weekend. I don't know that that's really the appropriate place for that discussion," Andrew Wheeler, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters prior to the release of the communique. Discussions on plastic waste were much less fraught, with the ministers in agreement that the issue needs to be quickly addressed. Under the international framework, each country will report progress on its voluntary measures and share solutions. Plastic waste that ends up in the oceans often ensnares or is ingested by marine animals such as dolphins and sea turtles. Microplastics measuring less than 5 millimeters can accumulate in fish, making them toxic for humans. About 300 million tons of plastic waste is produced every year, of which 8 million tons end up in the world's oceans, according to the United Nations. Most of that waste comes from Asian countries including G-20 members China and Indonesia. Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who co-chaired the meeting with Harada, announced on Saturday that his country will aim to require businesses to charge for disposable shopping bags by next April to help reduce waste. Many countries in the world already charge for single-use bags or ban them outright. The communique also made reference to the attacks Thursday on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, an incident that reignited concern over tensions in the Middle East and sent global oil prices jumping. Citing "recent developments highlighting concern about energy security," the ministers stressed the importance of preventing energy supply disruptions and facilitating stable markets.
The G-20 consists of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
LONDON, June 12 -- The UK’s former Secretary of State Boris Johnson has started his election campaign for the post of the Conservative Party’s leader and the Prime Minister.
The politician, who delivered his program speech in London on Wednesday, pledged that the country would leave the European Union on October 31. "After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31," said Johnson, who is considered as the front runner to replace Theresa May as the Tory leader and the head of the government. "Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society," he said, stressing that this task can be only achieved after leaving the EU. Britain’s next prime minister is due to be announced by the end of July.
BANGKOK, June 11 -- Southeast Asian leaders will commit to tackle the growing problem of marine debris, in particular plastics, during their summit later this month, according to a draft declaration obtained Monday.
The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will make the vow in the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region, to be inked during their summit to be held on June 23 in Bangkok. In the draft, the leaders call for strengthening actions at the national level, as well as through international collaboration, to prevent and significantly reduce marine debris.
They pledge to enhance policy dialogue and information sharing, implement partnerships between the public and private sectors, and promote innovative solutions to reducing plastic litter, including through development of a circular economy whereby plastics are kept out of the environment and instead returned to production through reuse and recycling. The leaders also commit to devote more scientific and research work to combatting marine debris and to increase public awareness and participation through advocacy and education, with the aim of changing people's behavior. The draft shows ASEAN's concern over the "high and rapidly increasing levels" of marine plastic litter and other debris, and the adverse impacts on marine biodiversity, ecosystems, animal well-being, fisheries, maritime transport, recreation, tourism, local societies and economies. It cites an "urgent need" for strengthened knowledge of the levels and effects of microplastics and nanoplastics on the marine ecosystem, food safety and human health.
LONDON, June 11 -- The British unemployment rate remained stable at 3.8 percent in the three months to April 2019, the lowest since December 1974, according to figures released Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics.
The data showed the employment figure across Britain increased by 32,000 in the three months to April 2019 to a record high of 32.75 million, with the employment rate being unchanged at 76.1 percent. The female unemployment rate fell to a record low of 3.7 percent. Figures revealed that the average weekly wage continued to grow, including bonus payments. "The labor market remains in fine fettle, and continues to break new ground," Tej Parikh, a senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said. "Businesses have steadfastly expanded their workforce while the fog of uncertainty clouds longer-term investment decisions," Parikh said.
BANGKOK, June 11 -- In his speech, responding to His Majesty the King’s royal command formally appointing him as prime minister at the Government’s House today (June 11), General Prayut Chan-o-cha promised to perform with honesty and integrity to make Thailand prosperous and keep Thais happy and healthy.
The Prime Minister said that he will listen to the voices of the people and dedicate his government to eradicating corruption, reducing inequality and elevating the welfare of the people. He also expressed his intention to provide opportunities for the younger generation to participate in national development to keep up with the digital era. General Prayut specifically emphasized his commitment to promoting a peaceful environment for a unified society based on love, unity and compassion, while safeguarding the dignity of the institutions of State, Religion and the Monarchy. The prime minister mentioned the important roles of the private sector and encouraged them to continue to support the new government.
TOKYO, June 8 -- The number of child births in Japan last year plunged to yet another new low, figures released on Friday (June 7) have shown, signaling the grave social obstacles that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will need to surmount to reverse the demographic trend.
Just 918,397 babies were born last year, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry announced, in what was the third straight year the number of newborns fell below the one million psychological barrier.
Total births dropped by 27,668 - or 2.9 per cent - from 2017, while total deaths rose 22,085 to 1,362,482 people in what was the largest margin of deaths over births on record. The latest data comes amid increasing scrutiny over the child-rearing environment in Japan, with a recent spate of horrific child abuse incidents that have led the government to introduce measures to ban corporal punishment of kids. Last month, a 45-year-old father in Fukuoka was arrested for using a shock collar to discipline his three children, while last week, a 21-year-old mother and her 24-year-old boyfriend in Sapporo were arrested after her two-year-old daughter was found dead. She had suffered bruising and appeared to have been malnourished.
The falling number of births also comes despite a push-back by Mr Abe's government over longstanding work practices that discriminate against working mothers in a bid to create a more conducive environment for child-rearing. Japan already has one of the world's most generous parental leave packages, with mothers and fathers qualifying for up to a year of parental leave over which they can earn nearly 80 per cent of their salaries. Mr Abe has also enacted reforms to impose caps on overtime work and encourage measures like flexi-work. Last month, the government enacted laws to make pre-school education free for all children aged three to five, as well as to provide free daycare services for children aged up to two from low-income families. "The financial burden of education and child-rearing weighs heavily on young people, becoming a bottleneck for them to give birth and raise children. That is why we are making (education) free," Mr Abe said last month. But the impact of the policies has not been felt by the society-at-large, which lambasted the wanton remarks made by at least two senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party politicians behooving them to uphold their societal responsibility and "give birth to at least three children". Many argue that such an ideal is unrealistic given the lack of childcare center slots and the general lack of support at the workplace. And then there is also the issue of stagnant wages that makes it prohibitively expensive for many to support a large family. A survey last month by Japanese non-profit 1 more Baby showed that 73.5 per cent found it difficult to have a second child. Eight in 10 cited economic hurdles to doing so.
"There's little sense that the environment for raising children has really improved," Japan Research Institute chief researcher Mika Ikemoto told the Nikkei. "The decline in birth rates is partly because it's become less clear to people that getting married and having children will make them happy." The average age last year of mothers giving birth for the first time was 30.7 years, indicative of a trend that people are not marrying at all, or marrying later. Tokyo said last month that it will no longer use the term "lifelong singles" to label those who are not married at 50. The national total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman gives birth to, dipped by 0.01 point to 1.42 - well below Mr Abe's goal of 1.8 by March 2026 but above the 1.26 recorded in 2005. By prefecture, Okinawa had the highest fertility rate of 1.89 while Tokyo had the lowest, at 1.20.
SAPPORO, June 7 -- Japan will restart commercial whaling on July 1 in Kushiro, Hokkaido, after the government announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission in December, a local fishery source said Friday.
Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted in 1982 by the IWC. Since 1987 it has hunted whales for what it claims is research, a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling. Following the withdrawal, Japan will hunt whales in nearby waters and within its exclusive economic zone but not in the Antarctic Ocean, where the country has carried out so-called "scientific whaling" for what it says are research purposes.
BEIJING, June 1 -- China on Saturday increased tariffs on billions worth of US goods as it prepares to unveil a blacklist of "unreliable" foreign companies that analysts say aims to punish US and foreign firms cutting off supplies to telecoms giant Huawei.
Beijing's move hits $60 billion worth of US goods with new punitive tariffs ranging from five to 25 percent, and comes in retaliation for Washington raising punitive tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25 percent. Washington and Beijing resumed their trade battle last month when trade talks in the US ended without a deal, with American negotiators accusing Chinese negotiators of reneging on previous commitments. The countries have exchanged tariffs on $360 billion in two-way trade so far.
The tit-for-tat tariff war has been upstaged in recent weeks by Washington's move to blacklist Chinese tech giant Huawei over national security concerns, threatening the firm's global ambitions. The US Commerce Department placed Huawei on an "entity list" on grounds of national security on May 16, a move that curbs its access to US-made components it needs for its equipment. A 90-day reprieve was later issued.
Hitting back, China's commerce ministry said Friday it would release its own list of "unreliable entities" that break their commercial contracts and stop supplying Chinese firms. "For China's countermeasures, what we say, we do," said anchor Kang Hui on Chinese state-broadcaster CCTV's primetime news show that aired across multiple Chinese stations Friday. "Talk and our door is open. Fight, and we'll fight to the end," said Kang. China's commerce ministry said it would roll out the detailed measures against companies on the list shortly, noting foreign firms that break contracts, cut off supplies or take other discriminatory measures against Chinese firms would be included. "Obviously it's mostly aimed at Huawei suppliers, Intel, Qualcomm, ARM ... if anything it's probably aimed at non-US companies, so European, South Korean and Japanese companies that may be trying to decide how strictly to apply the US ruling," said Andrew Polk, an economist at Trivium China. China wants to make it a much more difficult choice to cut off supplies to Huawei, he added. "It's potentially putting companies in a situation where they are forced to choose between the US and China and that could definitely backfire on them," said Polk. China's state-owned tabloid the Global Times said the new list would "work as deterrent forming a protective barrier around Chinese companies". "China is ready to wage a protracted economic and trade war with the United States," the nationalist paper said in an editorial. Former Chinese officials warned Friday that the trade war could last decades. "It is quite clear now that this is no longer a trade dispute and will extend much more broadly to punitive economic measures that each side can inflict upon each other," said Christopher Balding, a China expert at the Fulbright University Vietnam, adding it was reasonable to expect further escalation by each side. "It is quite possible there will be significant collateral damage here," Balding said. Speaking at a defence and security conference in Singapore on Saturday, the acting US defense secretary said Huawei was "too close" to Beijing, creating "too much risk". "The integration of civilian businesses with the military is too close. China has national policies and laws where data is required to be shared," Patrick Shanahan told the forum.
US President Donald Trump more than doubled punitive tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25 percent last month, and launched the process to hit nearly all remaining imports from the Asian giant.
China responded by increasing tariffs five percent to 25 percent on 5,410 American products Saturday, worth $60 billion in trade. The list includes beauty products, sports equipment, musical instruments, wine, condoms, diamonds, wood, fabric and toys. Washington's tariffs appear to have already had an impact on Chinese manufacturing activity, which contracted more than expected last month. While Trump insists China will pay billions in duties, experts note that US consumers and importers bear the brunt of tariffs on products coming into the United States. "The United States remains an important export market for China, but its importance is declining," said Wang Shouwen, who was on China's negotiating team, according to official news agency Xinhua. He emphasised the trade war's effect on China's economy would be "controllable". "If the US wants to force the Chinese to make concessions by engaging in unilateralism and putting on extreme pressure, this is impossible," said Wang, according to Xinhua.